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Kuwait offers plan to buy foreign citizenship for Bedoon

A Kuwaiti official publicly has announced plans to naturalize the emirate's stateless community, the Bedoon, in the Comoros in exchange for economic incentives.
Stateless Arabs, known as bidoon, run for cover as they take part in a demonstration to demand citizenship and other basic rights in Jahra, 50 kms (31 miles) northwest of Kuwait City, on January 14, 2012. Kuwaiti riot police on Saturday used tear gas and batons to disperse hundreds of stateless demonstrators for the second day in a row and arrested dozens, witnesses and a rights group said.  AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT (Photo credit should read YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)

On May 15, Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, the assistant undersecretary for citizenship and passports affairs in Kuwait’s Interior Ministry, announced in a TV interview that his country is negotiating with a fellow “Arab country” to naturalize Kuwait’s stateless community in exchange for economic benefits. Jarrah added that the Central Agency for Illegal Residents, headed by former parliament member Salih al-Fidala, is managing the negotiations after having studied the UAE-Comoros deal to naturalize stateless Emiratis. Although Jarrah did not disclose details of the negotiations, it was clear for the Bedoon that the Arab country in negotiation is the Comoros, as it was previously approached with a similar proposal in 2008. Following Jarrah’s interview, Kuwaiti and Bedoon activists expressed their outrage over social media, denouncing the authorities’ continuous attempts to deny naturalization rights to the stateless.

Kuwait’s stateless community is estimated to be at least 105,000 persons in a total population of 4 million residing in the country. Their problem was born with the independence of the country in 1961, when they failed to register or faced a racist bureaucracy that links citizenship with urban residents and not nomads. In 1986, following the oil crisis, Kuwait and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council made social programs such as public education, health care and employment support exclusive to citizens, excluding the stateless and migrant workers. Moreover, the Bedoon were gradually denied any form of identification and authorities started to classify them as “illegal residents” instead of “Bedoon” to avoid international accountability.

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